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In a damp, old sussex castle, American literary phenomenon Stephen Crane lies on his deathbed, wasting away from tuberculosis at the age of twenty-eight. The world-famous author of The Red Badge of Courage has retreated to England with his wife, Cora, in part to avoid gossip about her ignominious past as the proprietress of a Florida bordello, the Hotel de Dream.
Though Crane's days are numbered, he and Cora live riotously, running up bills they'll never be able to pay, receiving visitors like Henry James and Joseph Conrad, and even planning a mad dash to Germany's Black Forest, where Cora hopes a leading TB specialist will provide a miracle cure.
Then, in the midst of the confusion and gathering tragedy of their lives, Crane begins dictating a strange novel. The Painted Boy draws from Crane's erstwhile journalist days in New York in the 1890s, a poignant story about a boy prostitute and the married man who ruins his own life to win the boy's love. Crane originally planned the book as a companion piece to Maggie, Girl of the Streets, but abandoned it when literary friends convinced him that such scandalous subject matter would destroy his career. Now, with his last breath, Crane devotes himself to refashioning this powerful novel, into which he pours his fascination with the underworld, his sympathy for the poor, his experiences as a reporter among New York's lowlife—and his complex feelings for his own devoted wife.
Seamlessly flowing between the vibrant, seedy atmosphere of turn-of-the-century Manhattan and the quiet Sussex countryside, Hotel de Dream tenderly presents the double love stories of Cora and Crane, and the painted boy and his banker lover. The brilliant novel-within-a-novel combines the youthful simplicity of Crane's own prose with White's elegant sense of form, offering an unforgettable portrait of passion in all its guises.
|Product dimensions:||5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.54(d)|
About the Author
Edmund White is the author of the novels Fanny: A Fiction, A Boy's Own Story, The Farewell Symphony, and The Married Man; a biography of Jean Genet; a study of Marcel Proust; and, most recently, a memoir, My Lives. Having lived in Paris for many years, he has now settled in New York, and he teaches at Princeton University.
Read an Excerpt
Hotel de Dream
A New York Novel
Cora never thought for a moment that her young husband could die. Other people—especially that expensive specialist who'd come down for the day from London and stuck his long nose into every corner of Brede Place and ended up charging her fifty pounds!—he'd whispered that Stevie's lungs were so bad and his body so thin and his fever so persistent that he must be close to the end. But then, contradicting himself, he'd said if another hemorrhage could be held off for three weeks he might improve.
It was true that she had had a shock the other day when she'd bathed Stephen from head to foot and looked at his body standing in the tub like a classroom skeleton. She'd had to hold him up with one hand while she washed him with the other. His skin was stretched taut against the kettledrum of his pelvis.
And hot—he was always hot and dry. He himself said he was "a dry twig on the edge of the bonfire."
"Get down, Tolstoi, don't bother him," Cora shouted at the tatterdemalion mutt. It slipped off its master's couch and trotted over to her, sporting its feathery tail high like a white standard trooped through the dirty ranks. She unconsciously snuggled her fingers under his silky ears and he blinked at the unexpected pleasure.
The newspapers kept running little items at the bottom of the page headlined, "Stephen Crane, the American Author, Very Ill." The next day they announced that the American author was improving. She'd been the little bird to drop that particular seed about improvement down their gullets.
Poor Stephen—she looked at his head as hegasped on the pillow. She knew that even in sleep his dream was full of deep, beautiful thoughts and not just book-learning! No, what a profound wisdom of the human heart he'd tapped into. And his thoughts were clothed in such beautiful raiments.
This little room above the massive front oak door was his study, where now he was wheezing, listless and half-asleep, on the daybed. The whole room smelled of dogs and mud. At one end, under the couch and Stephen's table, there lay a threadbare Persian carpet, pale and silky but discolored on one side with a large tea-stain the shape of Borneo. At the other end of the room it had amused Stephen to throw rushes on the floor as if he were a merry old soul living in crude, medieval splendor. There were reeds and rushes and grass everywhere downstairs, which confused two of the three dogs, Tolstoi and Spongie, into thinking they were outdoors: they weren't always mindful of their best housebroken comportment.
The maid, a superstitious old thing, had placed a small jar of tar under Stephen's bed. Did she think it would absorb the evil spirits, or hold off the ghosts that were supposed to haunt Brede Place?
Yes, Stephen had all the symptoms, what the doctors called the "diathesis," or look of consumption: nearly transparent skin, through which blue veins could be seen ticking, and a haggard face and a cavernous, wheezing chest. His hair was as lank and breakable as old lamp fringe. His voice was hoarse from so much coughing and sometimes he sounded as if he were an owl hooting in the innermost chamber of a deep cave. He complained of a buzzing in the ears and even temporary deafness, which terrified a "socialist" like him, the friendliest man on earth (it was Cora's companion, the blameless but dim Mrs. Ruedy, who had worked up this very special, facetious, meaning of socialist). Cora wondered idly if Mrs. Ruedy was back in America yet—another rat deserting the sinking ship.
Cora glimpsed something bright yellow and pushed back Stephen's shirt—oh! the doctor had painted the right side of his torso with iodine. At least they weren't blistering him. She remembered how one of the "girls" in her house, the Hotel de Dream, in Jacksonville, had had those hot jars applied to her back and bust in order to raise painful blisters, all to no avail. She'd already been a goner.
"Hey, Imogene," Stephen murmured, his pink-lidded eyes fluttering open. He smiled, a faint echo of his usual playfulness. He liked to call her "Imogene Carter," the nom de plume she'd made up for herself when she was a war correspondent in Greece and which she still used for the gossip columns and fashion notes she sent to American newspapers.
"What is it, Stevie?" she asked, crouching beside him.
"Tell me," he said, "is the truth bitter as eaten fire?"
Oh, she thought. He's quoting himself. One of his poems. A kind of compliment, probably, since in the very next stanza, she recalled, there was something about his love living in his heart. Or maybe it was just idle chatter and all he wanted was something to say, something that would hold her there.
"I see," he said in so soft a whisper that she had to bend her ear closer to his lips, "I see you're airing your hair." He was making fun of her habit of loosening her long golden hair two or three hours every day and letting it flow over her shoulders. Arnold Bennett had been horrified, she'd been told, by her undressed hair when he dropped in unexpected for lunch one day. He'd told Mrs. Conrad (who'd unkindly passed the gossip along) that Cora's Greek sandals and her diaphanous chiton-like wrapper and loose hair made her look "horrible, like an actress at breakfast." But Mr. Bennett didn't have much hair nor would it ever have been his chief glory. There was nothing glorious about him except his prose, and that only intermittently.
No, Cora firmly believed that a woman must let her hair down every day for a spell if it were to remain vigorous and shiny (she'd heard that Sarah Bernhardt did the same; at sixty she looked thirty).Hotel de Dream
A New York Novel. Copyright © by Edmund White. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am still haunted by the characters in this story although it has already been a couple months or more since I read the book. I found the story between Stephen Crane and his common law wife Cora incredibly touching, and the secondary story between the Painted Boy and his lover painful and sad. I think Edmund White is a talented writer able to capture the mood and nuances of the era, its characters and textures, which make for a story rich in layers,complexity and subtleties. I found myself thinking about the hardship of survival on the streets when there wasn't many charitable resources...how did someone keep their humanity and dignity? I also found myself thinking how sad to lose a talented writer like Stephen Crane at only 28 years old and what we lost in potential work. If an author is able to elicit the small fraction of emotions and responses to his story that I briefly captured in this review then he deserves respect and recognition for his tremendous talent as a writer. Hotel de Dream is a book for any permanent library shelf and transcends any preconceived notions about what makes a beautiful love story.
Edmund White, gratefully, is a prolific writer, a gifted man of letters who has become one of America's more important authors. While much of Edmund White's oeuvre is about gay life, he does not confine his talent to the one topic: he is a brilliant biographer, a fine man of research, and a poet with prose. HOTEL DE DREAM: A New York Novel is his latest foray into fictional biography and for this reader the book succeeds on every level. The short novel is ostensibly a 'biographical' account of the sadly brief life of novelist Stephen Crane, a nineteenth century literary giant who is best known for THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE, but who also wrote a few other short novels and story collections. Basing the concept of this novel on both fact and fantasy, Edmund White gives us the last days of Stephen Crane's life, a tortured existence as he succumbed to tuberculosis, nursed by his beloved mistress Cora, an ex-Madame who had run a bordello in Florida called the Hotel de Dream. Crane had in fact befriended a poor youth who happened to be a male prostitute infected with syphilis: White takes this fact and uses it as a unique approach to explore the mind of Crane, using the fragment of thought that Crane was planning to create a story 'Flowers of Asphalt' based on the sad lad as the impetus for this brilliant book, the composition of a final novel called 'The Painted Boy.' The novel deals with myriad aspects of Crane's life, but in the end it focuses on Crane dictating to Cora a 'fictionalized' story about a married banker, Theodore, who becomes enamored with a teenage, poor, syphilitic hustler named Elliott, only to find that his coming to grips with buried secrets of lust (tenderly satisfied by the very lovable Elliott) plunges him into a downward spiral that ends with a series of tragedies that parallel Stephen Crane's own consumptive death from tuberculosis. As Crane lies dying he shares his ideas for the conclusion of the story with the stalwart Cora, asking her to present the manuscript to Crane's respected colleague Henry James to complete after Crane dies. The story ends with a surprise that traces a circle to the beginning: the period of the turn of the century simply was not the time a story such as 'A Painted Boy' could be published. Edmund White's ability to create a novel within a novel in such a fascinatingly credible manner is matched only by his gift for writing some of the most beautiful prose before us today. He understands character development, he knows the agony of personal tragedy, and his intellectual honesty dissects history so smoothly that his novel feels like true biography. And yet he takes the time to pause for moments of writing that are so touching they make the reader reflect with respect: 'He glanced down and saw that his sheet was stained yellow. He must have pissed himself. He started to cry. So it's come to this, he thought. He'd gone back to infancy and incontinence - with this difference: an infant has everything ahead of him and a loud tamtam is beating in his heart with anticipation, where as he, Stephen, felt the rhythm slowing into a valedictory murmur./ He was so ashamed of himself.' HOTEL DE DREAM is a brilliant little novel and should please lovers of historical fiction as well as readers who long to find tomes of gleaming, eloquent writing. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp
Hey hunter you ready to die
Her blue eye search him* "I see.."